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Reply to a Despairing Catholic Seminarian (Indefectibility)

Reply to a Despairing Catholic Seminarian (Indefectibility) June 26, 2021

This despairing cry from an anonymous Catholic seminarian was posted at the radical Catholic reactionary site One Peter Five under the title, “Seminarian: ‘Is There Any Reason Why I Should Remain Catholic?’ “ (5-18-21). I will reproduce all of the article (in blue) and make replies.

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I’m finishing up my theology studies and planning to leave the seminary. I know I shouldn’t go into public ministry.

If he knows that, then he certainly shouldn’t. One must be sure of such things. I was called to a ministry of apologetics and evangelism as a Protestant in 1981, and have never wavered in my firm belief that this was an authentic call: just as I also followed the “call” to join the Catholic Church in 1991. But I question whether he truly “knows” it. He is despairing at the moment, and those are the times that the devil exploits to the max, to disillusion us and make us question ourselves. He needs encouragement and hope and reaffirmation of his calling. I think I have some, if he ever reads this.

I’ve become disillusioned and resentful. I don’t believe in what the Catholic Church is teaching, and I don’t want to help perpetuate what it is doing.

This is, of course, a sweeping statement, and therein lies the problem with it. He assumes a false premise: that the Church is teaching heresy. It is not. Not a single doctrine has changed. Now, if he means that certain people at this seminary and/or whatever parish he is involved in, are teaching false doctrines and heresy, that may very well be true. The Bible warned about wolves in sheep’s clothing. But that’s not the Church as a whole. Thus his statement can only at best apply to local and specific environments.

I understand that this “cry” is emotional in nature, and I’m sure there are many reasons why (on a personal level) he has been led to this sad abyss. But one can’t answer emotion with emotion and accomplish anything. My job as an apologist is not to be this poor soul’s shoulder to cry on (hopefully that is someone he knows very well and can trust; if I were one of those I would do that, too). As an apologist who doesn’t know this seminarian from Adam, I have to note where he has gone astray in his thinking — despairing or no.

The answers to and way out of such despair have to be objective and from reason: something to hang onto in one’s dark night of the soul. I’m obviously not in despair, as a fellow Catholic. So I can’t give this person more despair in empathy because it’s not in my heart and head. I’m filled with joy and fulfillment and hope as a Catholic.

After almost 10 years of discerning a call and pursuing a vocation, it seems like I’ve wandered down a dead end road, and ended up stranded in the woods.

It could be that he was never called in the first place, but more likely, he was and is disillusioned because he has been (I assume) surrounded by bad examples of Catholics, and heterodox teaching from dissidents and so-called “progressives” who no longer accept the teaching of the Catholic Church en toto.

The first and most obvious solution was that he could and should have removed himself from this toxic environment and found one where the people do continue to teach the unchanging faith of the ages and the fullness of Christian truth. He’s in this bad spiritual / emotional place, I think, because he’s come to think (and feel) that the rotgut he is encountering in this seminary represents the entire Church. It does not. That’s a lie from the pit of hell that the devil has put into his head during this crisis in his life.

I was naïve enough to assume that the Catholic faith was practiced in the Catholic Church, but experience has taught me that the faith is no longer welcome in the Church.

Again, this is not true of the entire Church. The faith lives on, as it always has. It is (I’ll take his word) true in his seminary and/or parish. We know nothing of where he is, so I can’t speak to that. I can’t look up the credentials and history of the men who have been teaching him and who brought him to this sad impasse. But it seems fairly obvious and likely that this is the cause of his darkness and hopelessness. Emotions are not objective. He thinks this seminary is the whole Church, just as a fish in an aquarium thinks its environment and living space is the entire world and that there is nothing outside of it.

I would advise against pursuing a vocation in the Church today, and I wouldn’t even recommend the Church to anyone. What could anyone expect to find but spiritual abusers who refuse to enter the Kingdom of God and try to prevent others from doing so?

This starts to become sinful at this point, but we understand that it is a hurting soul with no hope left. Nevertheless, we cannot let falsehoods of this nature go out unopposed. It is not true that only spiritual abusers who aren’t Catholic at all can be found in the Church. There are far too many of those — God knows — and it has wrought devastation in many human beings, but it’s not the sum total of the Church. It’s a small minority. The Church has always had grave sinners in it, including sexual sin. St. Paul talks about a case of incest among the Corinthians. See:

Sins and Sinners in the Catholic Church [1998]

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He should have left this cesspool long ago if it is this bad.
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I could not tell you one teaching of the Catholic faith that isn’t always changing.
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That is, in this seminary. Not a single one has changed in the Church. If it had, this person could have easily documented that. But he doesn’t, and there is a good reason for that: he can’t find one that has changed in the actual “books.”
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I don’t think we’ve even begun to acknowledge the extent to which modernism has undermined the foundations of the faith. 
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In sadly too many specific places it has, in practice. But it hasn’t changed the actual faith. It’s like after Vatican II: all these dissident liberals pretended that all this stuff had changed and that it was enshrined in the council, when in fact none of it had, and the council taught no such thing. This gets to the issue of indefectibility. The true Church established by Christ cannot and will not ever defect from the true faith:

St. Francis de Sales: Bible vs. Total Depravity (+ Biblical Evidence for the Indefectibility of the Church, from the Psalms)  [11-24-11]

The Bible on the Indefectibility of the Church [2013]

Salesian Apologetics #1: Indefectibility of the Church [2-4-20]

The Church is crumbling into quicksand, and we are scolded ad nauseum that the Church still has to change more with the times.

It’s doing no such thing. This person has been sold a bill of goods. He’s got the theological liberals lying to him and saying that the Church has changed and no longer believes a, b, c, d, and that this is a good thing; and he has the reactionaries telling him that the Church has changed and no longer believes a, b, c, d, and that this is a bad thing. Neither scenario is true. Church doctrine has not changed.

The premise is wrong. The Church is what she always has been. It has sinners in it, who try to do great harm. They are on the left and right of the spectrum, and there are many nominal Catholics: in name only (just as there always have been, too, human beings being what they are).

But Jesus doesn’t change. He set up His Church, and the Holy Spirit (Who is also God and doesn’t change) guides and protects it from falling away. If we get our eyes off of Jesus: God incarnate and the sinless, Holy One, and onto a bunch of renegade wolves in sheep’s clothing, then our perspective will be tragically exaggerated and skewed and we will descend to the pit of despair, where the devil wants us to be.

Jesus said, “let your yes mean yes and your no mean no”, and we respond, “not either yes or no, but both yes and no.” We call good evil, and evil good. We guard a false peace of compromise in contradiction, and cultivate diseases of corruption and decline. The Church is like a wet cardboard box, and the bottom is falling out.

That’s what the devil would like us to believe, but it’s a lie. The Church has been through far, far worse times in her past, yet survived and underwent renewal (which tends to be cyclical by century). That ought to give us hope in the doctrine of indefectibility, seeing what we have survived. Today’s crisis is grave, but not the worst ever, by a wide margin.

Why evangelize? Evangelize to what?

The one true Church, the fullness of the Christian faith, the Church that Jesus established, promised would never fall away, and which has been historically continuous since He died: that‘s what. And that’s quite enough. When I came into the Church in 1991 I wasn’t looking at people, I was looking at which Church had the teaching of the Bible and the apostles and Church fathers. It was no contest. The Orthodox was the next closest, but since they allow divorce and increasingly, contraception (two objectively mortal sins), that quickly ruled them out for me, since neither the Bible nor the early Church taught either thing.

We’re not allowed to catechize anymore.

The are multiple thousands of catechists and Bible studies in parishes. It’s hard to believe that he actually thinks these things he says are literally true.

There is too much resistance to the faith from the Church.

I don’t see it. The faith still remains what it always has been. If this is an implicit dig against Pope Francis, it’s also a lie that he is not orthodox. I have defended him 193 times; I know. If I had found heresy, I would have been the first to loudly oppose it, since I am 100%, rock-solid orthodox. My mentor was Servant of God Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ: who was considered the best and most orthodox catechist in America before the official catechism came out (which he personally endorsed as “orthodox”).

What’s the point? What are we doing? The Church is no longer hoping to convert the world to Jesus Christ, but we are converting the Church to the Spirit of the World. 

This is also a falsehood. I agree that there could surely be more emphasis on outreach (which has always been the case from Day One), but it’s not true that the Church has somehow started to oppose evangelism.

The salt has lost its flavor and it is being cast aside and trampled underfoot. The lamp is dimming, the coals are dying out, and charity is growing cold. The substance of the faith has been drained out of the Church and watered down. The Church has been hollowed out. Triumphalism is defeated, the Barque of Peter is sinking, and it could be downhill from here.

This is the doctrine of the defectibility of the Church, which is heresy, since that doctrine is de fide (dogma at the highest level). The pope is also indefectible, as was taught at Vatican I in the same section that defined papal infallibility.

But, I know I’m the problem. I’m bitter, pessimistic and resentful. 

Hence, (in my opinion) this letter should not have been public, and much of it is suspect, by his own report. Those attitudes are not edifying, and are easily sinful. Readers of it might be led to the path of despair as well.

I know I shouldn’t minister publicly in the Church, and so I’m getting my degree and leaving. I shouldn’t have tried to persevere for so long, and I wish I had never pursued what I thought was a calling. I’m the kind of person who should be chased out of this Church.

Well, there is a lot to unpack here. The question becomes: was there a suspicion that his calling was an authentic one? Is he speaking about his true self (“I’m the kind of person . . .”), or just speaking out of despair, being resentfully sarcastic (sour grapes thinking) and not describing the true person outside of that despair? One can’t know from just this letter.

But before I leave, I just want to ask one question, hoping that some leaders of the Church may hear me, and maybe try to offer a response:

Is there any reason why I should remain Catholic?

Further, is there any reason for anyone to remain Catholic, or become Catholic? I dare you to tell us one good reason.

I’m not a leader of the Church but I can give many more than one (149 more). I have provided 150 reasons in one of my better-known articles (see the same article translated into Spanish). See the related papers:

The Sex Scandals Are Not a Reason to Reject Catholicism [National Catholic Register, 8-24-18]
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Leaving Catholicism (Not Primarily Due to Sex Scandals!) (reply to Michael Boyle & Melinda Selmys) [10-5-18]
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St. Augustine wrote:

For why do they sit at the gate, and what do they watch for, if it be not for this, that so soon as any bishop or clergyman or monk or nun has fallen, they may have ground for believing, and boasting, and maintaining that all are the same as the one that has fallen, but that all cannot be convicted and unmasked? Yet these very men do not straightway cast forth their wives, or bring accusation against their mothers, if some married woman has been discovered to be an adulteress. But the moment that any crime is either falsely alleged or actually proved against any one who makes a profession of piety, these men are incessant and unwearied in their efforts to make this charge be believed against all religious men. (Epistle 78 [6]: to the Church at Hippo [404 A.D.] )

You can’t tell us that the Church is necessary for salvation, because we are no longer allowed to believe and teach that anymore.

This is false. It’s in the Catechism and the Vatican has reiterated it in recent times; most notably in Dominus Iesus (2000). If this person is determined to reject the Catholic Church, he has to (in all honesty) do it based on what it actually teaches: not what some dissident liberal falsely pretends that it teaches.

We don’t need to be saved from anything anymore–except from maybe tradition–it’s unhealthy to talk about sin, and hell no longer exists.

Nonsense. I just recently put up a paper documenting how Pope Francis not only teaches a lot about traditional doctrines concerning hell, Satan, and demons, but in fact far more than the previous two popes.

You can’t tell us that Christ is present in the Church, because we have to acknowledge that he’s present in other churches also, and even in nature. 

Those things are true (God is omnipresent, so of course He is in nature), but He is most fully present in ours.

What can the Church offer that a scenic mountain view can’t offer? You can’t tell us that we are building the Kingdom of God on earth, because we can do that better as liberal Democrats, and that the traditions of the Church are only holding us back.

Well, that’s the typical Marxist / far left messianism. Sime people are more Democrat or Marxist than Catholic, and it has become their religion and idol. But the Church doesn’t teach this. He keeps repeating the same mantra-error over and over, so I have to keep reiterating that it is a falsehood.

You cannot tell me that the Church is a community of charity, because I know how unwelcoming the welcoming are, I know how intolerant the tolerant are, and I know how vindictive the merciful are.

There are bad apples in every human group.

You cannot tell me that the Church will accompany me with dialogue because I know how the Church is not a safe space for people who believe in the faith, and how much churchmen gossip, bully, and ostracize.

People are sinners. None of this should even surprise us, let alone lead us to despair. The Bible teaches:

Hebrews 12:1-3 (RSV) Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, [2] looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. [3] Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Hello?! Can anyone hear me?!

I hear you loud and clear. I understand your frustration and despair, but I think it has come about partially because you have accepted several false premises. Those don’t help things at all. If I or someone else can convince you of their falsity, you’ll be in a much better place, because you are carrying all of this load of “baggage” of false notions on your back.

Do any leaders of this Church care about anything besides guarding the false peace, enforcing mediocrity and managing the decline? Do you care about the salvation of souls? Do you care about anything?

Most do. Some don’t. It’s always been this way. Even if most didn’t, the Church wouldn’t cease being who she is.

I dare you to answer this question: Is there any good reason why anyone should practice the Catholic faith in the Catholic Church? I dare you. Is there any reason, besides fear of the judgement of God–something which we are no longer allowed to believe in–why I shouldn’t warn people to stay away from the Catholic Church?

Sure: there can only be one “The Church”: as someone said (can’t remember who). Only the Catholic Church has all the credentials to claim that title. And that’s why we must follow her, once we understand that this is the case (as I did in 1990). If we’re in a bad seminary or parish, then we do the utmost to high-tail it out of there and find one where the practice of the faith is flourishing.

Of course, I know that the leaders of the Church cannot answer this question satisfactorily. We no longer believe in the Catholic faith, and we can no longer say anything of substance. They can only respond with something about an inclusive human community journeying toward unity in a dialogue of accompaniment, etc., and my point will have been proven.

That’s what liberals who no longer accept the faith in its entirety say. It’s not what the Church teaches.

The Church has nothing to offer the world that it doesn’t have already, and its benefits cannot outweigh its deficits. Some lower clergy and faithful laity could respond with a satisfactory answer, but they also know what it’s like to feel so unwelcome in this welcoming Church, as well as what it’s like to struggle to find reasons to stay.

If this person truly believes this, he has already left the one true faith and Church in his heart, and he is not without blame for doing so. He would stand accountable before God if he leaves the Church. Much better to get it right now before that dreadful day comes for him.

I often sneak out of the chapel during homilies on Marian feast days, because I find that aversion to the sacred is especially directed toward Mary, and it hurts me too much to hear Our Lady denigrated by priests. So I will end this terrible rant by praying for the intercession of Our Lady Help of Christians, to please help the Church, and especially the little ones who feel so spiritually abused
by the Church.

There is no law that says he had to stay in a lousy parish like this. Why did he not leave?

Our Lady Help of Christians please do something, anything… But, either way, I should probably leave, I’ve lost my faith and I’m not wanted here.

I can only hope that he reads this and takes it to heart. I will pray for him and ask all my readers to also do so.

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Reactionary writer at One Peter Five Peter Kwasniewski also responded, and he agreed with what I have written in many respects, but sadly, not in some other major and crucial ones. He first pointed to the saints as reasons to remain Catholic:

Each one of these saints is a masterpiece of God’s grace triumphing in the frailty and fracturedness of fallen human nature. Each one is a bright light in the encircling gloom. Each one tells us what the Christian is called to be and can, in fact, become by fidelity to Our Lord Jesus Christ. Each one gives the lie to fatalism, nihilism, and cynicism. And each one is an unanswerable argument for the truth of the Catholic Faith.

Amen! This was one of my 150 reasons, too. Then he appealed to Catholic civilization:

If someone were to ask me “Why be a Catholic?,” I would reply: The glorious civilization the Catholic Church inspired and built—the culture of fine arts and sciences that has no equal, let alone rival, anywhere in human history, because divine revelation illuminates and fuels human endeavor. It attracted and motivated the highest flights of genius as well as the most extensive philanthropy; it made a home for epiphanies of beauty that reach up to eternity and infinity, lifting us above our earthbound vision and daily doldrums. The music, the architecture, the painting, the poetry—Gregorian chant, Palestrina and Byrd, Haydn and Bruckner; Romanesque basilicas and Gothic cathedrals; Giotto, Fra Angelico, Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian, El Greco, Bernini, van Eyck; Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Manzoni, Hopkins, Chesterton, Waugh… once again, the list could go on practically for ever.

Eloquently put! I mentioned this in part, in #35 of my 150 Reasons:

Catholicism retains the sense of the sacred, the sublime, the holy, and the beautiful in spirituality. The ideas of altar, and “sacred space” are preserved. Many Protestant churches are no more than “meeting halls” or “gymnasiums” or “barn”-type structures. Most Protestants’ homes are more esthetically striking than their churches. Likewise, Protestants (particularly fundamentalists and too many evangelicals) are often “addicted to mediocrity” in their appreciation of art, music, architecture, drama, the imagination, etc.

Kwasniewski continued by noting the history of Catholic theology:

If someone were to ask me “Why be a Catholic?,” I would reply: The theology of the Church in its apostolic, patristic, and scholastic plenitude, a grand oak tree birthed from a tiny acorn, showing in its mighty trunk and vast crown the power of the principles at root. As John Henry Newman saw and described so well in writing the work that accompanied his entry into the Roman Church, An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, the truth unfolds in strength and stability across the ages of faith.

But the massive internal contradiction in his view is that he thinks all this was true “down to the eve of the Second Vatican Council.” Later he referred to “postconciliar distortion of Catholicism.” Yes, it was distorted in practice among dissidents, but not in and of itself. The Catholic Church, according to him, went off the rails and ceased being itself in 1962. But of course this is impossible, according to traditional Catholic faith. The Church can never defect. It can never lose the faith. Nor can the pope. Yet Kwasniewski wrongly believes (against de fide dogma and the facts of the matter) that the present one is a heretic.

And for this reason, Dr. Kwasniewski cannot fully offer hope to this struggling former seminarian. He’s still offering him slop, if he thinks the Church ceased being so, and that some semblance of “traditionalism” (i.e., reactionary Catholicism has stepped up to fill the gap and the void. It’s self-evidently absurd. Even his fellow One Peter Five writer and founder of that operation, Steve Skojec, recently stressed that so-called “traditionalism” is not some sort of replacement pseudo-Church. So Kwasniewski’s ecclesiology remains highly disjointed, confused, and deficient.

This person needs to be led back to the Church of the ages, which remains today, the same as it always has been, with human problems and sinners, but the same doctrine. After Jesus preached on the doctrine of the Real Presence, the Bible says “After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with him” (Jn 6:66). Then He asked the remaining disciples:

John 6:67-69 . . . “Do you also wish to go away?” [68] Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; [69] and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

It’s the same with the Church. It is the Body of Christ, and indeed, “the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15). How could anyone possibly think of leaving that fold and going to some inevitably and inherently lesser, inferior place?

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Photo credit: Fotorech (3-6-19) [PixabayPixabay License]

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Summary: A Catholic seminarian has been brought to despair and hopelessness after relentless indoctrination from dissidents who disbelieve in the Church’s doctrines, including indefectibility.

 


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